A team of 17 engineering students and staff from the South Eastern Regional College joined MHT Volunteer Co-ordinators, Alan Whitcroft and Emma Cunningham and Volunteer Ranger Tony Laverty to continue repairs to a section of upland path in the Mournes.
The popularity of the Mournes for walkers means that the trails and paths in the mountains are constantly in need of repair and maintenance. Repairing paths correctly prevents erosion and protects the fragile upland heath ecosystem of the Mournes. Once properly repaired a path will withstand years of walking traffic and, by encouraging people to stay on the path, will prevent damage to the surrounding vegetation.
The weather was against us with plenty of rain, wind and low cloud but at least it was pretty mild. From Ben Crom Dam we only had a short walk in to the site we were working on. This trail cuts across a steep slope so, when it rains, water runs down the slope and washes over the path, eroding the peat exposed by constant trampling.
The repair technique involves removing the soft peaty soil layer of the existing path down to a rocky foundation, transferring the soil to holes and gaps to the side of the path. Then we add loose rock to build up the level of the path before finally filling and levelling the path with sand aggregate. The sand, which is the product of glacial activity, can be found in deposits all over the Mournes. This has to be dug with pick and shovel from a “borrow pit” nearby the path. Once levelled and compacted, the sand and gravel surface provides an ideal surface for walking on and resists being washed away.
Our team did a great job, completing another 10 metre section of the path in spite of the weather and the muddy conditions. When we got back to the Gate Lodge we were told that we looked like we’d been swimming – in mud!